At eleven years old, Brig Owens (CECH ’65) faced a turning point. After Pete Liapis, former boxing champion and WWII marine, caught young Owens swiping bicycles in front of the Fullerton Boys Club, Liapis gave Owens a choice – play sports or go to juvenile hall.
Brig chose to play sports – football, basketball and baseball at the Boys Club. Football brought Owens to the University of Cincinnati, where he went on to be an All-American and helped the Bearcats to two straight Missouri Valley Championships as UC’s quarterback.
“UC was a great experience for me. Coming from California, I thought I would just play football, get my degree and return home, but UC changed my plans,” said Owens. “UC helped me identify what I wanted out of life, and helped me achieve my goals.”
Owens has many fond memories of the University, but one stands out in his mind. “One of my favorite memories at UC was meeting my wife in the registration line. I waited 3 hours so I could talk to her. She ended up giving me a chance, and we’ve been married for 46 years,” Owens recalled.
Owens' UC Football career was followed by a 13-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Owens also served as assistant executive director and associate counsel to the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) from 1979-1984. While with the NFLPA, he was a member of the negotiating team that developed a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL. Currently, Owens is Partner of the Bennett Group, a commercial real estate development group in Washington D.C.
Owens is also known for his steadfast commitment to his community and America’s youth. Since 1985, Owens has helped set more than 24,000 students on the right track as a part of a nonprofit program called Super Leaders, which he co-founded with Gene Upshaw, former Oakland Raiders player and former Executive Director of the NFL Players Association.
Super Leaders strives to provide high school and middle school students with positive leadership skills by combining in-school mentoring, leadership retreats and community service to help students resist negative peer pressure and succeed academically. Members of Super Leaders enter college or employment following high school graduation.
“Super Leaders provides a foundation to nurture students, to help them grow and become good, solid citizens,” Owens explained. “We teach our students that dreams can become a reality if they stay on the right track and stick to their goals.”
Approximately 98 percent of Super Leaders members graduate from high school and 75 percent of those students go on to attend college or trade school. “Super Leaders members establish a plan and figure out what they want to do with their lives,” Owens explained. “I always tell students to find something they enjoy. Members of Super Leaders go to college, join the military, go into law enforcement among other careers, and are contributing citizens.”
Owens commitment to America’s youth does not stop with Super Leaders. He also created the Professional Athletes Youth Foundation and Community Service for the NFLPA, where he raised more than $10 million to implement a youth development program in 10 cities. Because of his commitment to country and community, Owens was one of six people selected to receive the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in 1990.
In addition to mentoring and supporting America’s youth, Owens remains committed to the University of Cincinnati. “The University of Cincinnati is one of the great, leading educational institutions in the country. In order for UC to continue to lead, grow and contribute, it's important to give back to UC. I want young UC alumni to share the same fond memories I did.”